|Trapunto - How To
|Trapunto is a needlework technique that results in some images coming
forth or standing out and some images receding. It requires extra stuffing
for those images that come forth, and heavy, close quilting for the images
that recede. Almost always the background is heavily quilted to make it
recede as well.
Until fairly recently, trapunto was accomplished by stitching the entire
design and stuffing it from the back by inserting additional pieces of
batting or cording with a special long needle. The most accomplished
needle artists could do this without leaving marks, gaps or cuts on the
quilt backing. It is believed that this technique began in Italy, was
perfected in France, and came to the US through Great Britain. See more
about the history of trapunto at Quilt History - Whole Cloth Quilts.
With the advent of fusible battings, water soluble thread and
disappearing ink markers, the technique of trapunto has become much
easier and faster to do. Although trapunto is sometimes used to accent a
patchwork piece, it is most commonly used in whole cloth quilts.
For the whole cloth quilt, the first step is to draw the pattern that you would
like to stitch on the quilt top fabric with a water soluble marking pen. This
sounds simple (and it is), however, it can be the most time consuming
segment of this process. Prepare your fabric top by laundering it and
checking for any flaws or imperfections. Cut it to the size you want,
squaring it up on the grain (bias stretches, you know). Before tracing any
patterns, mark the center of your fabric and registration lines from the
center to the 4 corners and from the center to the middle of the top,
bottom, left and right edges.
You will need pattern(s) to trace, which can be found in a number of
places: stencils, books, architecture, tile floors, websites. Just be careful
not to infringe upon copy write laws when selecting your pattern. If you
have a pattern that is the wrong size, simply take it to the local copy shop
or office supply store and enlarge or reduce it until you get the size you
Then you will need a light box so that you can see to trace your pattern(s).
What Claudia uses is her free standing quilt hoop with a Plexiglas insert
and a study lamp underneath. (This was her clever husband's invention.
He cut the Plexiglas to fit inside the hoop exactly. This accomplished
several objectives: used what they already had on hand and gave Claudia
a larger surface to work on than you typically get with a commercially
purchased light box.)
Draw your center motif first and build out from there. Be sure to draw in
all background areas with the fill patterns. Once you start sewing, you do
not want to have to go back and draw in patterns because the fabric will
no long lay flat. Also, drawing the entire design helps you decide where
you need more fill stitching and where you want to trapunto, which is your
We have gotten the best trapunto results by using polyester batting for the
trapunto and then using a cotton batting for the middle layer of the entire
quilt. On all motifs that you want to trapunto, put a piece of polyester
batting behind the motif and sewing from the top side, sew around the
motif with water soluble thread. Then on the back side, trim the batting
as close to the stitching line as you can, taking care not to clip the
stitching or your top fabric.
Once you've sewn the polyester batting on all trapunto motifs, sandwich
your quilt, using the backing of your choice and cotton batting as the
center layer. Baste with either hand stitching or quilting pins. Quilt on the
lines that you have drawn for your design, using regular threads of
course, not the water soluble type. Traditionally, thread of same color as
the quilt top is used. You can see an example of this at Paix en la Vallee.
However, let your artistic instincts be your guide when selecting colors
and thread finishes. See an example of using embroidery threads at
Lake Tahoe Wedding. You can stitch by either machine or hand,
however, if you are hand quilting, select your center batting accordingly.
Some cotton battings are difficult to hand needle.
Once the entire piece is quilted, soak the piece in warm water to dissolve
the water soluble thread and to make the markings disappear. Hot water
may shrink your quilt and cold water may not dissolve the stitching, so
stick to warm.
Bind your quilt in your usual manner.
We advise you to study several whole cloth quilts before you begin your
own. By studying other works, you'll discover the varying designs and you
will see ways to approach a densely stitched background, which is
essential to a successful design. There are books on the subject and
other websites to help you.
|For more information on how to do trapunto, check
out the resources listed below:
|Heart to Heart Celebration Quilts
P. O. Box 813009
Smyrna, Georgia 30081-8009
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